Farmworker Justice released a report last week analyzing 8 years of USDOL’s enforcement data of laws protecting farmworkers. It should come as no surprise that the report, “U.S. Department of Labor Enforcement in Agriculture: More Must be Done to Protect Farmworkers,” found high rates of violation of both the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage requirement and basic protections afforded farmworkers under the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act. However, the report also found that USDOL has improved its enforcement efforts in recent years.
The report caught the attention of David Weill, Administrator of USDOL’s Wage and Hour Division. In response, Weill writes:
Agricultural workers are among the most vulnerable, at-risk populations that the U.S. Department of Labor protects. They are typically unaware of their rights, or afraid to speak up. They often fall victim to wage, health and safety violations as they toil for long hours, often in harsh conditions, to put food on tables across the nation. . .
We have made progress in protecting workers, yet, challenges remain and we must face them in the most effective, efficient ways possible. Since we will never be able to investigate or to provide training to every grower directly, we will continue to deploy our resources strategically to improve compliance as broadly as possible. We are committed to strengthen the results of every investigation. We will not play a game of whack-a-mole correcting violations on a case-by-case basis. We find the causes of the violations and address them.
You can read his full blog post here. Farmworker Justice and Weill both agree that USDOL must continue with the trend of more enforcement in order to deter agricultural employers from violating the basic rights of their employees and to protect hard-working farmworkers from abuse.